Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mercenaries - A Big Mistake

I'm saddened by America's use of mercenaries in Iraq. These people act as guards, truck drivers, cooks, and a host of other occupations in jobs that support our military and diplomatic presence there. There may be as many as 100,000 of them getting paychecks indirectly from Uncle Sam, supporting 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. In previous wars, soldiers did these jobs. What has changed? Is this a risky business?

One major change is the volunteer army. How many people volunteer to be cooks or truck drivers or supply clerks or ammunition carriers? Not many. Once upon a time these jobs were done by draftees who learned their jobs in 16 weeks, did these jobs for 1.6 years, and were then replaced by more draftees. They didn't earn much. Now, highly paid "mercenaries" do these jobs, and some of them, like the truck drivers, carry weapons for defense. Others, often retired Special Forces or other crack troops, guard diplomats and carry out other high profile assignments. It's strange that these people typically make a lot more money, sometimes a whole lot more money, than the "troops" the Presnit is always talking about.

Another change is the lack of regular soldiers to fill the ranks in time of "war". Even with maximum use of the reserves and National Guard, the Preznit can't keep the surge going. Fortunately for him, these mercenaries don't have hitches that expire or families who are pissed off at tour after tour of combat duty. If GBW makes the price right, new mercenaries will always be ready to go - and if one of them gets killed, it's not one of the "troops" GBW"s always talking about. Unfortunately, the mercenary is just as dead.

I'm saddened because mercenaries constitute a "shadow army", an army motivated more by money than by love of country and the country's values. Mercenaries, therefore, are likely to follow orders that regular soldier's won't follow. This, coupled with the fact that a mercenary's legal status is unclear (are they covered by the Geneva Convention?), leaves the American people at risk for atrocities done both by them and to them. Bush has opened Pandora's Box with his heavy reliance on mercenaries in Iraq. It's a bad mistake. It's war by proxy, only the proxy army is mostly American.

The next administration should close down mercenary training camps in the United States. It may also be a good idea to revoke the citizenship of any American who fights as a mercenary in a foreign country, or, at a minimum, disallow embassy or councillar support for such persons if they get into trouble. I just don't want Americans going around the world shooting people for money, regardless of the "cause". It's time we got serious about accountability for all those who do our military dirty work. They've got to be actually in our military, or they don't belong in a combat zone fighting for us.


Woozie said...

Maybe things would be better if soldiers in all branches actually got paid a decent amount of money. Of course this would require an increase in taxes, and taxes are bad even if they support the troops.

Ron Davison said...

On top of this, the issue of legality is always so muddled to me. Is Blackwater subject to Iraqi law or American law or military? Currently it seems to be none of the above. At a minimum this should be settled before their use is continued. Of course, this "should" will make absolutely no difference.